WordPress glitches

November 25, 2015

Apologies, Dear Reader: WordPress is glitching. The usual list of important articles, just below the masthead, has disappeared.  I’ve got no notice on it, and it appears the WordPress “help” button may also be missing from some editing screens.

See the blank line below the masthead? It's supposed to list important articles for first-time visitors, and for me.

Something’s missing. See the blank line below the masthead? It’s supposed to list important articles for first-time visitors, and for me.

Stick with us while we try to track down some solution.

WordPress is an admirable host, and easy to use for blogging. I have no reason to complain often — but I wish I could figure out how to fix this.


Early history of EPA: Pesticides regulation and DDT

June 24, 2015

This is an excerpt from EPA’s official shorthand history, online since the 1990s.  I include this part here, dealing with the EPA’s famous regulation of the pesticide DDT, because I refer to it and link to it in several posts — and because over three different administrations, the URL has changed several times.  I fear it will one day go dark.  Here it is for history’s sake, found on June 24, 2015 at http://www2.epa.gov/aboutepa/guardian-epas-formative-years-1970-1973#pest.

Opening to the entire piece; links to subsections go to EPA’s site:

The Guardian: EPA’s Formative Years, 1970-1973

EPA 202-K-93-002
September 1993
by Dennis C. Williams

Table of Contents

The section on DDT hearings and regulation:

Pesticides and Public Health

Unlike the air controversy, which erupted after the agency’s establishment, EPA’s creation coincided with the culmination of the public debate over DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane). A chlorinated hydrocarbon, DDT proved to be a highly effective, but extremely persistent organic pesticide. Since the 1940s, farmers, foresters, and public health officials sprayed it across the country to control pests such as Mexican boll weevils, gypsy moths, and pesky suburban mosquitoes. Widespread public opposition to DDT began with the publication of Rachel Carson’s influential Silent Spring. Reporting the effects of DDT on wildlife, Carson demonstrated that DDT not only infiltrated all areas of the ecological system, but was exponentially concentrated as it moved to higher levels in the food web. Through Carson, many citizens learned that humans faced DDT-induced risks. By 1968 several states had banned DDT use. The Environmental Defense Fund, which began as a group of concerned scientists, spearheaded a campaign to force federal suspension of DDT registration–banning its use in the United States. Inheriting Department of Agriculture (USDA) pesticide registration functions, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) of 1964, EPA was born in the midst of the DDT storm.

In January 1971, a tribunal of the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia ordered Ruckelshaus to begin the process of suspending DDT’s registration, and to consider suspending its registration immediately. At the end of a sixty-day review process, the administrator reported that he had found no good reason to suspend DDT registration immediateIy. It and several other pesticides–including 2, 4, 5-T (Agent Orange), Dieldrin, Aldrin, and Mirex–did not appear to constitute imminent health threats. This action infuriated many environmentalists.

By 1971, the Environmental Defense Fund had mobilized effective public opposition to DDT. The furor created by Ruckelshaus’s refusal to stop DDT use prompted many to look for sinister political motivations. Some suggested that Mississippi Congressman Jamie Whitten had used his position as chairman of the agricultural appropriations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to make Ruckelshaus conform to the interests of the agrichemical lobby. While actually, Ruckelshaus took his cautious stance for less menacing reasons.

At its creation, EPA not only inherited the function of pesticide registration from USDA, but also the staff that served that function. The USDA economic entomologists who designed the pesticide registration process in the first place preached the advantages of effective pesticides and minimized discussion of debatable health risks. The same staff that had backed USDA Secretary Clifford Hardin’s earlier claim that DDT was not “an imminent hazard to human health or to fish and wildlife” 8 provided Ruckelshaus with the same counsel.

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring led to banning DDT and other pesticides.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring led to banning DDT and other pesticides.

Between March 1971 and June 1972, American newspapers reported both sides of the pesticide debate. Some articles recalled the glory days when pesticides saved thousands of lives in World War II; how they had increased agricultural productivity and allowed relatively few farmers to feed the world’s growing population; and how the most besieged insecticides, such as DDT and Mirex, had little human toxicity. Other journalists praised alternative approaches to pest management such as biological controls (predator introduction, sterile males, and pheromone traps), integrated controls (crop rotation and carefully delimited pesticide use), and refinement of other, less persistent chemicals. Some reported the near panic of Northwestern fruit growers facing beeless, and therefore fruitless, seasons. They attributed the lack of pollinating insects to pesticide use.

Throughout the spring of 1972, Ruckelshaus reviewed the evidence EPA had collected during the agency’s hearings on DDT cancellation and the reports prepared by two DDT study groups, the Hilton and Mrak Commissions. Both studies suggested that DDT be phased out due to the chemical’s persistent presence in ecosystems and noted studies suggesting that DDT posed a carcinogenic risk to humans. In June, he followed the route already taken by several states he banned DDT application in the United States. Though unpopular among certain segments of EPA’s constituency, his decision did serve to enhance the activist image he sought to create for the agency, and without prohibitive political cost.

The DDT decision was important to EPA for several reasons. While it did not stop the debate over what constituted appropriate pesticide use, DDT demonstrated the effect public pressure could have on EPA policy decisions. It also made very visible the tightrope act a regulatory agency performs when it attempts to balance the demands for protection of human and environmental health against legitimate economic demands. Furthermore, EPA’s decision set a precedent for regulatory decision-making. As an advocate of the environment, Ruckelshaus and the agency chose to risk erring on the side of protecting human health at the expense of economic considerations–a course that would bring the agency under heavy criticism before the end of its first decade.


Your missing comments?

December 24, 2014

Spam comments on this blog abated for a couple of weeks, but they’re back with a vengeance.  Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub is collecting from 1,500 to 5,000 spam comments daily over the past week.

How I feel policing spam comments at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub.

How I feel when policing spam comments at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

Doesn’t affect you, EXCEPT if your comments somehow run afoul of the spam filters.  If you make a comment that does not appear almost immediately, please track down my e-mail, and let me know (I’m assuming you know how to add “@” and “.” where appropriate in an e-mail address).  There is so much spam that I may not otherwise find a short, non-spam comment in the mire.

Why would your comments run afoul of the spam filters?  Biggest reason is too many links.  I’ve set what I consider to be a reasonable limit on the number of hot links in a post before the spam filters ask me to look at a post.  Sometimes, in the heat of discussion, even I run afoul of that limit.

The second biggest reason is profanity.  This is a family-friendly, high-school-student-and-therefore-district-profanity-rules-friendly blog.  Mild profanity probably won’t catch your comments — but they might.  If you’re a sailor who wishes to wow us with your ability to write blue, your comments will be flagged.  Stick to making the argument, and avoid inflammatory, profane rants.

Third, if you’re writing from a nation where many of your ip addresses are involved in spam comments, or negative SEO attacks, the filtering software may think your comments are similarly ill-intended.

So if you leave a comment, and it doesn’t show, try to let me know.


Does a name seal one’s geographic fate?

September 28, 2014

A site out of Utah that compiles a list of blogs based in Utah County, around Provo, lists Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub as one of the local products.

It’s tough to complain.  The site doesn’t drive much traffic my way, but there is an occasional foray.  The Bathtub can use all the traffic drivers anyone wants to provide for free, in honest linking.

There’s some good company on the list.  Jared Stein writes about education issues from Utah Valley University, and his blog is listed there.  (One must appreciate a blog that correctly uses a clip of the Black Knight sequence from Monty Python in discussing on-line education resources.)

Mount Timpanogos is based in Utah County.  It’s a beautiful, underappreciated block of ancient stone.

Mount Timpanogos at sunset.  Timpanogos is the second highest mountian in the Wasatch Front (11,752 ft/3,582 m), and forms the eastern border of Utah County.  Wikipedia image, photo by Eric Ward from Provo, UT, USA - Mount Timpanogos - 01/19/08

Mount Timpanogos at sunset. Timpanogos is the second highest mountian in the Wasatch Front (11,752 ft/3,582 m), and forms the eastern border of Utah County. Wikipedia image, photo by Eric Ward from Provo, UT, USA – Mount Timpanogos – 01/19/08.  The founder/editor of this blog has been inspired by this mountain for years, particularly in those years that it greeted him each morning from his bedroom window.

But the Bathtub is not based in Utah County, despite the reference to the mountain in the URL.

It’s great to have something of beneficial serendipity to note, in contrast with our usual observations that the “idiots” are carrying us all to hell in an uncomfortable and inadequately air-conditioned hand basket.

(Writing this reminds me that I’ve never been to the summit; anybody organizing a hike soon, and need a now-flatlander blogger along?)

Another important clue:  Amazon.com is not a company located in the Brazilian rainforest.


Busy, unproductive summer; some photos and rambles a-coming

August 3, 2014

Dallas Moon, June 7, 2014

Dallas Moon, June 7, 2014; sure it’s copyrighted, but please use it with abandon.

I got a pretty good shot at the Moon back in June, considering it’s just a 200 mm telephoto, and I was shooting handheld, without the tripod.  You can’t tell from the picture, but the sky was blue.  One of the issues of getting a good Moon shot concerns exposure — and this time, I got the Moon right.  Sky is black, but there you go.  We were walking the dog.

I’ve made a lot of photographic experiments over the summer, none of which I’ve posted.  I’m also fighting computer issues with both the laptop and desktop, and downloads have been uncertain.  The shot above, for example, shows up in some indices, but not in others.  Can’t post it if I can’t tell WordPress what to upload, you know?  Who really understands computer logic?

I’ve made two trips to Colorado to visit James and Michelle.  None of the photos are up yet — and there are, actually, thousands.  None of the thought rambles are up, either.  I got ambushed by a fellow with “the easiest political quiz in the world” while drinking beer and listening to the Bodeans in Louisville, Colorado; there’s a photo somewhere of my pointing out the errors of the guy’s quiz, and his confessions that he’s a libertarian in GOP clothing; and then there were our visits to those temples to the failures of libertarianism, including the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Mesa Verde N.P.  Colorado libertarians live among the disasters and ruins of libertarian thought, but think and claim they are held back by the ropes their rescuers throw to them.

I hope I’ve got the streams of posts flowing again, Dear Reader.  Your past patience is greatly appreciated.


Spam fight continues, with new spammers

July 13, 2014

It’s called “negative SEO,” the ad agent for a California law firm tells me.

When someone gets a decent presence in blog mentions and other placements of ads on-line, competitors take a legitimate phrase, or a few phrases, from those ads, and they start spamming sites with them.  Google then notices a blip in traffic, and tells the original advertiser to stop it or Google will ban them from search engines.  Of course, the advertiser doesn’t know who is doing the spamming . . .

The law firm and fancy car dealer seem to have gotten it under control, and I had hoped that would be the end of it.

But the Kia dealer near St. Louis is showing up again — and for some odd reason, an air conditioner service group in Tucson, Arizona.  In the past day I’ve got about thousand spam messages on the blog, more than 600 offering air conditioner service.

One might wish these spam hits would boost the traffic numbers on the blog -- but they don't count.  Blog spam filters are smart enough not to count these as hits, but not wily enough to figure out how to stop them.  604 messages like this.  Rats.

One might wish these spam hits would boost the traffic numbers on the blog — but they don’t count. Blog spam filters are smart enough not to count these as hits, but not wily enough to figure out how to stop them. 604 messages like this. Rats.

My apologies, Dear Reader.  If you posted a comment and it didn’t show up, send me an e-mail, or post another comment without links, and I’ll try to rescue it.


Spam comment flood update

June 20, 2014

The Aston-Martin and Kia comment ads are diminished, and probably thanks to their ad agency, the law firm comment ads are gone.

Now I’m getting up to 2,000 spam comments a day for Spence Diamonds and Spencer Diamonds, in Canada.

More than 4,000 spams comments relating to Spence Diamonds and Spencer Diamonds, in the past couple of days. Oy.

More than 4,000 spams comments relating to Spence Diamonds and Spencer Diamonds, in the past couple of days. Oy.

If you, Dear Reader, posted a comment that did not appear, it probably got caught up in the flood and my desperate attempts to stop the comments from hitting the actual blog.  Please find my e-mail (see “About this blog,” above), and drop me a line giving me a key word in the comment, so I can find it among the thousands of spams.

Of course, I’d be pleased to let the comments come through (and count on my reader totals!) if either company (is the the same company) would simply send me a couple of bags of diamonds.  That way I could afford to pay WordPress and then take ads . . .

If you blog, you may be seeing the same deluge.  It used to come mainly from pornography sites, and I could find it all with a few vulgar word searches.  That ended a couple of years ago with the arrest of some of the spammers.  This stuff is more pernicious, because generally the words in the comments sent are all non-pornographic, and words that would snare other comments unfairly.

This is a practice known as “negative SEO,” I understand — when competitors take a legitimate ad and send out spam, hoping people will complain to Google that the targeted company is spamming and suspend all tracking for the company’s ads and mentions. Dastardly.  So, I suppose we shouldn’t blame Spencer Diamonds nor Spence Diamonds.  My previous complaints seem to have gotten some action, though — so I”ll keep complaining.

I apologize for the inconvenience, Dear Reader.

Please, no spam.

Please, no spam.


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